Trial postponed for 53rd time after accused claims he is too stressed
When a doctor’s note excusing him from court for being stressed failed to impress a Port Elizabeth magistrate yesterday, alleged trickster Jason Wood stepped up his game.
Hunched over in the dock, the fraud accused began shaking and quivering, claiming he was about to be sick. Magistrate Hannes Claassen was left with no choice but to abandon his judgment.
State advocate Lise Keech said it was the 53rd time Wood, 43, of Circular Drive, had caused proceedings to be delayed through one of his bizarre antics.
The slick jack-of-all-trades businessman is accused of fleecing a string of Port Elizabeth people out of a total of R1.4-million through investment schemes.
After a four-year long trial, during which time Wood introduced numerous delays, from firing his legal representatives to asking for a psychiatric evaluation, the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court was due to deliver judgment yesterday.
But, just as proceedings were about to get under way, Claassen was informed that Wood would not be at court because he was too stressed.
Defence attorney Masunet Strydom said Wood had sent her a photograph of a doctor’s note in the morning, booking him off for two days.
An unimpressed Keech said the latest stunt was just another tactic to buy time.
“We are all stressed. He can just sit here and listen to the judgment,” Keech said, also questioning why a stressed person would specifically be booked off for two days, and not three or four.
“So, this means he will no longer be stressed tomorrow?”
Claassen, agreeing with Keech’s sentiments, issued a warrant for Wood’s arrest, giving him until 10am yesterday to get to court.
Within minutes, Wood was seated in the dock.
But, just moments into Claassen’s judgment, as he began analysing the testimony of the state witnesses, Wood put his hand up to catch his attorney’s attention.
He then ran out of the court and into the bathroom. On returning some time later, and hunching over in the dock, he said he had been sick and could not sit through the remainder of proceedings.
Claassen said it was clear he could not continue with the judgment and postponed the case to April 3.
While a string of complainants claim they were fleeced by Wood between January 2011 and July 2012, he has maintained his innocence throughout.
One by one, the alleged victims – a clinical psychologist, a businessman and an unemployed former friend – had testified as to how they allegedly lost their cash through business transactions involving the selling of animal hides, vehicles and upholstery contracts.
Wood has two previous convictions for fraud and theft dating back to September 2005 and March 2009 respectively. He received suspended sentences in both instances.